Before hitting the road for their current Australian tour, Peking Duk had a warm-up gig of sorts at one of the biggest parties on Sydney’s calendar: WorldPride.
“I think it’s a real good sign of the times seeing how big Mardi Gras was,” one half of the duo, Reuben Styles, says. “Like, Sydney has been kind of in the shitsville since the lockout laws began, and it kind of just seems like everything is coming around and it’s finally getting good again.”
Styles and bandmate Adam Hyde have both been focused on other projects throughout the pandemic. Both launched solo music projects – Styles with the cow-tech spaghetti western sounds of You’re Only Great Always (Y.O.G.A.) and Hyde with his endless summer vacation-chasing alter ego, Keli Holiday – and, like so many others, they launched a podcast. Styles also became a father for the first time with the birth of his son, Remi.
“It can be very stressful at times, of course, but having a whole lot of nothing to do for almost three years – 2020, 2021 and 2022 – we were in and out of these COVID-y lockdown-y cycles, and then venues not really opening properly and things like that happening, so I’d say if I’d been wishing for things to get busy again, they certainly have,” Styles laughs. “Anytime it gets really stressful I’ll just look back to that time where there was nothing to do for three years and I go, ‘Okay, no, this is good!’”
Peking Duk is back on the road for the first time since their ultra-ambitious ‘Biggest Tour… Ever’ in 2019. In hindsight, Styles says, had they known COVID was coming they probably would have trimmed things back a bit.
“That level of show I think we were hilariously investing in ourselves a lot more than we probably should have,” he laughs. “We had a touring part of like 23 people for every show, including Coffs Harbour and shit. Like, it was so, so next level.”
Although Styles holds zero regrets now, he says they’ve decided to make this show more of a hybrid operation, with less moving parts.
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“So instead of live drums and live bass and live guitar, we’re playing live syths,” he explains. “I guess a little less Red Hot Chili Peppers, and a little bit more Chemical Brothers… That was probably the worst analogy ever, but it’s the first thing that came to my head! Less funk, more party!”
There is one noticeable absence from their live shows, with vocalist Micci (Michaela Baranov) leaving the band to focus on her solo career. Instead, the boys welcomed Lucy Lucy to the fray around six months ago.
“We’re getting Lucy Lucy on the road, who is an amazing singer and very accomplished artist as well. She actually lives with Adam, so it’s more of a thing of convenience than anything else – they can just share a cab to the airport,” Styles jokes. “We’re really learning how to cut costs since ‘The Biggest Tour… Ever’ in 2019 and if it means saving that $40 on that taxi ride, we’re going to do it!”
The duo recently took a leaf out of PNAU’s book, breathing fresh life into a classic hit by re-working ‘I Want You’, the break-out single by Australian ‘90s pop duo Savage Garden. Styles admits himself and Hyde have been Savage Garden fans “forever.”
“Actually, the first CD I ever bought when I was a kid was ‘I Want You’ the single,” Styles recalls. “It was a CD with a cardboard case – something Darren Hayes was telling me he was really upset about, when he walked into the CD store and got the rude chock of seeing all the other cases were plastic and his was cardboard. But it was quite exciting for me, buying my first CD!”
With the 25th anniversary of the track – and Savage Garden’s eponymously titled debut album – being celebrated this year, Peking Duk decided to remix the track and get Savage Garden’s approval for its release.
“We sent it to Darren, and he was like, ‘Oh my god, this is sick – let’s re-record the vocals and make it a super super fresh release,” Styles says. “I think seeing the way Elton John and Dua Lipa did that PNAU remix of ‘Cold Heart’ recently, revitalising a track that really deserves it is so exciting, and the opportunity for us to track fresh vocals and sub out the guitars for fresh ones got really, really exciting.”
Working from a studio near Hayes’ home in Santa Monica, the trio spent around three hours together. “It was enough time to get everything we needed and plenty more, and he is just the most amazing person,” Styles gushes. “He’s got the most charisma, the most exciting energy, he’s fucking hilarious and immediately he’s one of our best friends of all time.”
Peking Duk released a series of original tracks throughout the past few years, including ‘Chemicals’, ‘Honest’ (ft. Slayyyter) and ‘Spend It’ (ft. Circa Waves), but the end of 2022 provided the pair with a unique opportunity to work on some new music in North Queensland.
“Lucy was with us and we worked with Johnny Courtidis, who is one of the most accomplished Australian songwriters,” Styles reveals. “He actually has a spot in Airlie Beach, so we came up and spent a week there – I brought (wife) Emmy and Remi, so the fam was all up there, so between sessions we got to go on little adventures, and we walked away with a crazy amount of awesome songs.”
The trip also afforded Styles an opportunity to film a new music video for his new solo single, ‘Sober Mile’.
“I don’t think I’ll ever get to experience something like that again, that was like some real cowboy rogue shit,” he laughs. “When you’re filming anything you need, like, a thousand safety marshalls, but on this clip it was just me and my mate Jack (Toohey) and we just went out there and we were like, ‘You know what? Let’s just start burning cane and filming it and see what happens.’”
The main focus for Peking Duk this year will be releasing new music, Styles promises – and they are road-testing one unreleased track in their current live set.
“We’ve started road-testing one of the songs we did with Beenie Man, and he’s now in the intro of our set which is extremely exciting,” Styles says. “It’s more or less just a straight up club track, but we love it so much, so hopefully we can give it enough road testing for it to be weird not to release it any time soon.”
Peking Duk 2023 Australian Tour
For more information, visit pekingduk.com
Thursday 16th March
Friday 17th March
Gadigal/Sydney, Enmore Theatre
Saturday 18th March
Darkinjung/Central Coast, Drifters Wharf
Sunday 19th March
Arakwal/Byron Bay, Beach Hotel
Tuesday 21st March
Gurrumbilbarra/Townsville, JCU Uni Bar
Thursday 23rd March
Friday 24th March
Ngaro/Airlie Beach, Magnums
Saturday 25th March
Meanjin/Brisbane, The Tivoli
Sunday 26th March
Yugambeh/Gold Coast, Miami Marketta
Friday 31st March
Kaurna/Adelaide, Hindley Street Music Hall
Saturday 1st April
Boorloo/Perth, Metro City